A small-ball guide for deep stacked tournaments

You probably know by now that I’m a proponent of small ball poker. It’s a technique that allows you to play more hands while limiting your risk.

It’s imperative to save a few chips whenever possible when playing small ball poker. You never want to risk a high percentage of your chips unless you’re dealt a monster hand.

In previous columns I’ve discussed how to play small ball poker in high buy-in tournaments but I’ve never provided a step-by-step betting guide to be used as blind levels increase – until now.

OK, say you’re playing in a deep stack tournament where each player starts with 20,000 chips with blinds at 50-100.

In the early stages without antes, an attempt to steal blinds simply isn’t worth the risk; the potential increase to your stack is just too small. Instead, your goal should be to play a wide range of hands, get some action, and pick up chips from the weakest players at the table.

Two key points: In these early stages, make the minimum raise anytime you are the first player to enter the pot. Also, if another player raises in front of you and you have a hand you want to play, just call.

Do not reraise; just call and see the flop. At this stage there isn’t sufficient value in trying to steal the blinds with a big reraise. Even if you were successful, there’s not enough upside potential considering the risk you’d be taking.

You see, in tournament play, the early stages are all about trapping. So try this: With blinds at 50-100, raise to 200; with blinds at 100-200, raise to 400.

And as the tournament progresses, use this pre-flop betting guideline for playing small ball poker:

U100-200 blinds with a 25 ante — raise to 250

U150-300 blinds with a 25 ante — raise to 700

U200-400 blinds with a 50 ante — raise to 950

U300-600 blinds with a 75 ante — raise to 1,400

U400-800 blinds with a 100 ante — raise to 1,800

U500-1,000 blinds with a 100 ante — raise to 2,200

U600-1,200 blinds with a 100 ante — raise to 2,800

U800-1,600 blinds with a 200 ante — raise to 3,800

U1,000-2,000 blinds with a 300 ante — raise to 4,800

U1,200-2,400 blinds with a 300 ante — raise to 5,800

U1,500-3,000 blinds with a 400 ante — raise to 7,200

U2,000-4,000 blinds with a 500 ante — raise to 9,500

Note that the recommended pre-flop raise never exceeds 2.5 times the big blind. In fact, it’s actually best to slightly reduce the size of your pre-flop raise in order to conserve even more of your precious chips.

Consider this scenario: With blinds at 1,200-2,400, your opponents will react the exact same way to a 5,800 chip raise as they would to a 2.5 times the big blind bet of 6,000. Proponents of small ball poker, who always look for ways to risk fewer chips before the flop, know that this slightly smaller raise is a bargain!

Small-ballers save 200 chips every time another player reraises and they decide to fold. Also, it changes nothing in terms of how their opponents will play their hands.

Same thing when the blinds are at 2,000-4,000. Any player who would call a 9,500-chip raise would call a 10,000 bet with the exact same frequency.

Keep in mind that it’s only necessary to veer from this betting strategy when your chips start to dwindle and you become short-stacked.

That’s the time to steal blinds and antes. Pick your spot and move all-in.

Remember not to press the panic button too early and have faith in the small ball system.

XVisit www.cardsharkmedia.com/books.html for information about Daniel Negreanu’s newest book, “More Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.” Negreanu just won the 2008 BC (Canada) Poker Championships title, taking home first place prize of $371, 910. He beat out 689 players to win the event.

© 2008 Card Shark Media

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.